In a new campaign advertising a €35 billion loan the French government is taking out, the nationalistically symbolic Marianne is depicted as barefoot and pregnant. Who thought that was a good idea?
The answer is the Director of Government Information, Thierry Saussez, who orchestrates campaigns of government reforms and was in charge of this public relations effort. The 975,000€ campaign lasted two weeks and ran in single and double page ads in national and regional newspapers, as well as weekly news magazines. With the slogan “France is investing in its future,” the ad was intended to promote sustainable investment, education, the digital economy, research, and economic development. Instead, this neuvo-Marianne has got quite a few French feminists in a twist.
In contrast with traditional representations of the “Triumph of the Republic,” which show Marianne baring her breasts as she leads soldiers in the for liberty on a battlefield, this version propagates a retrograde, natalist vision of women. Gone is Marianne the warrior, the spearhead of freedom. What is left is a passive and virginal mother-to-be carrying the future of France not in her hands, but in her belly.
In defense, Saussez says, “As these are investments for the future, we had quite naturally the idea of taking this beautiful symbol of motherhood…a very nice positive symbol.”
When inequalities of wages and domestic labor abound, prominent French feminist blogger Le Féminin l’Emporte responds, “The hand of the state should not be in my uterus, and certainly not to look for money.” Olympe at Le Plafond de Verre agrees, “The poster is suggesting that the job of women is to make babies while the men manage the billions from the loan.”
Others have taken to parody, altering the image to one that reflects their anger. In one, a woman who is not pregnant holding a placard that reads, “casse-toi, alors pauvre con,” the insult hurled by President Nicolas Sarkozy at a farmer who refused to shake the president’s hand in February 2008. Now in the midst of another PR bumble, when will he ever learn?